University of Malta

High Performance Imaging Postgrad
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Student: Andre Micallef
Supervisor: Dr. Ing. Marc Anthony Azzopardi
Level: M.Sc. By Research, Start Date: 2012, Status: Completed   
Funding: Strategic Educational Pathways Scholarship (STEPS)

Andre Camera

Competition in the technology sector is challenging and large multinational corporations seem to have greater resources to cope in this environment. This puts into question the viability of small design teams in this industry. However, smaller teams are also nimble and quick to adapt to market changes. By taking advantage of less corporate inertia, small entities need to quickly develop disruptive technologies from cutting edge research. This project explored how the size handicap can in fact be turned into a virtue.

In continuation of previous work on high-frame rate multi-camera synchronization, this project, aimed to design a cutting edge camera with a view for commercialization within two person years. A novel design methodology was developed which structures the design constraints and users’ requirements in a way that narrows down the engineer’s design space considerably. This saves time and development costs, allowing small teams to compete against much larger entities.

A camera was developed, capable of recording 1200 frames per second at Full HD. This generates 25 Gigabits of data per second, enough to fill a 1Tb hard drive in about 5 minutes. Technologies like 10Gigabit Ethernet, high-end FPGAs and DDR4 memory become merely standard practice, yet new technology moves these goal posts every 6 months. Any viable business case depends on being able to take advantage of new technology faster than the competition. During this project, one researcher completed, within 2 years, a design that would typically require a team of 5 over the same time scale.


Student: Marc Anthony Azzopardi
Supervisor: Prof. Ivan Grech
Level: M.Phil, Start Date: 2004, Status: Complete   

Marc Camera

A €16.44 million FP6 project involving 43 mostly-European partners was partly funded by the European Commission to study various techniques for detecting and measuring human fatigue. The project, acronymed SENSATION, tasked the University of Malta to design a set of multi-vision high-frame-rate cameras around custom-built CMOS image sensors made by Atmel (Grenoble). CMOS imaging technology was in its infancy at the time, and the lure of low cost, mass produced, high performance cameras attracted the automotive industry towards using them for driver vigilance monitoring. A number of such cameras were desgined for use in a vehicle to track a driver's point of gaze and blinking rate to infer his state of vigilance and the onset of fatigue.

For this purpose, the University developed a method for synchronising high frame-rate cameras with exceptional precision. The method was further extended to retain the same level of synchronization during real-time transfers of the vision data and can be used for taking simultaneous digital video footage of an object, or event, from several different angles with a synchronization error of less than a hundredth of a billionth of a second.

This work resulted in the University's first WIPO patent (WO/2010/029040), as well as a number of technical publications presented at international conferences and journals. The synchronization method allows precise but practical 3D imaging of ultra high-speed processes and has widespread application in a number of industries. A high degree of camera synchronisation simplifies the development of automotive machine vision systems for road surface condition monitoring, lane departure warning and collision warning/avoidance. Other sectors of application include scientific instrumentation, crash testing; high speed industrial machine vision; medical imaging; gaming; and sports motion/gait analysis.

Last Updated: 8 March 2016

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